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State speaker’s campaign aide charged with money laundering

October 18, 2019 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A campaign aide to the state House speaker has been indicted on a charge of money laundering, Rhode Island’s attorney general announced Friday.

Jeff Britt is charged with a felony count of money laundering and misdemeanor charge of making a prohibited campaign contribution, Democratic Attorney General Peter Neronha said.

It is alleged that Britt, while working as a paid campaign consultant to Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s 2016 reelection campaign, met with defeated Republican primary candidate Shawna Lawton and funded a $1,000 contribution made through a third party to her, to pay for a mailer endorsing Mattiello instead of her party’s nominee, Neronha said.

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Britt’s attorney, Robert Corrente, said Britt was used by the Mattiello campaign as a “fall guy” and is eager to clear his name at a public trial.

“We are confident that the jury will see this set-up for what it is, once they hear the testimony from everyone involved,” Corrente said in a statement.

Mattiello’s campaign spokeswoman, Patti Doyle, said Friday that the current proceedings do not involve the speaker and that the elections board resolved this issue for the campaign last year.

Mattiello was reelected in his Cranston district, beating Republican opponent Steven Frias by just 85 votes. The state Republican Party filed a complaint over the mailer, alleging Lawton didn’t properly disclose who funded it and claiming Lawton and Mattiello illegally coordinated through Britt.

The elections board dismissed contempt proceedings against Britt last year but referred the case to the attorney general.

According to the indictment, Lawton deposited the $1,000 check into her campaign account, along with another $1,000 check delivered by Britt, then gave Britt a check for $2,150 that was used to pay for the mailer.

Corrente said that while they think the charges should not have been brought, in the “sometimes sordid history of Rhode Island politics,” participating with others in raising money for a campaign mailer three years ago is a “pretty underwhelming offense.”

Neronha said that the state’s election laws exist to ensure transparency and that the public knows the true source of funds used to support political candidates. His office and the Rhode Island State Police investigated the matter.

Britt is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 1.